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Sisters of NO mercy!

Sisters of NO mercy!


Postby BlackPanther » Mon May 28, 2012 2:33 pm

Route description: Five Sisters of Kintail

Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Date walked: 26/05/2012

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 12.5 km

Ascent: 1698m

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I've been waiting for this challenge for years. Actually, so has my husband. He's already climbed all Munros in Kintail BUT the Sisters, so they were bothering him a bit :lol: :lol: Last year, as a preparation to the ultimate Kintail climb, we did the Three Brothers ridge (the whole story in detail is here: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=11677) and I found out I was very keen on narrow ridges, steep slopes and all the challenges that Glen Shiel Munros had to offer 8)
To tackle the Sisters eventually, we needed a good, clear day. And last Saturday was such a day, perfect blue sky, nice and warm, just a perfect moment for the great adventure. We said: "The Sisters are a go!" and started packing our stuff.
Before starting the walk, we went through so-called logistical planning :lol:, discussing possible options of descent. The usual way most walkers choose is to traverse the ridge and return along the road. But I hated this solution - slogging 8km along the busy A87 seemed a very tiring experience. Kevin agreed with me and we decided that we will start from Bealach an Lapain, bag the three Munro-sisters and return the way we came. It added about 300 metres to our daily ascent, but I'd rather climb a bit more than walk a long distance on the tarmac road. Besides, we did exactly the same thing, returning along the ridge of the 3 Brothers and I didn't complain back then.
Our route:

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So having chosen the route and made the final preparations, we drove to Kintail early on Saturday morning. The weather was great though it felt hot. I rubbed a double layer of 50+ factor onto my UV-allergic skin, added sun glasses and a hat - I looked a bit weird but who cares!
I was worried that the car park below Bealach an Lapain could be full, but there was still plenty of space when we arrived. We chatted to another couple of walkers, also getting ready to tackle the Sisters, checked our rucksacks and... The time came to start the ultimate challenge!
The day was tropical, so before we left, we made sure that we had a bottle of cold lemonade hidden in our car boot. We carried 3.5l of water with us and hoped it would be enough - there are no streams higher on the Sisters to refill your bottles :?
I remembered my first climb up Bealach an Lapain and it was a long, painful push. The advantage - you gain height quickly and after about an hour of hard work you are already on the main ridge.
Just after a few minutes we passed a lovely field of bluebells:
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The path is well marked all the way. In wet weather the bottom part of the initial climb can be very slippery, but not on Saturday, after a few days of hot, sunny weather the ground was bone-dry, even the streams flowing down the slope were reduced to just a few drops at a time...
The path:
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I pushed hard to start with and in about 20 minutes I was already rewarded with lovely views down to the glen, and across, to the Saddle:
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Another 20 minutes of huffing and puffing - and the ridge was very close now!
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The south Glen Shiel in the morning sun:
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The Forcan Ridge - another challenge! Kevin has done it so I must, too!
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One more effort, some more sweating and we landed on the ridge. Views are stunning even from here and I was so happy I couldn't stop meowing!
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After a very short break on the col, we rushed for the first peak of the day - Sgurr nan Spainteach, which is not a Munro, but just as interesting as the Sisters themselves.
Looking back towards Bealach an Lapain and Saileag:
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No scrambling at this point - the path is easy to pick and it avoids all the crags:
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Impressive vertical cliffs:
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Past the first of many little tops on the way to Sgurr nan Spainteach the ridge narrows... More fun than I expected, to be honest!
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I was in "I-WANT-MORE!" mood and didn't feel intimidated by the ridge:
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...even though it looked scary!
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OK, here they are, the Sisters of Kintail. Are they also "Sisters of Mercy"? Will they have any mercy on our tired feet? :lol: :lol: Left to right: Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr nan Spainteach (the top in the front), Sgurr na Carnach and Sgurr Fhuaran.
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That ridge looked like a killer :shock: :shock: !!!
The best way to push away all the doubts is simply to continue the walk!
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A glimpse back towards Saileag and the traverse path:
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Approaching Sgurr nan Spainteach:
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The best way to keep your man happy - take him up on the hills!
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The day was a bit hazy, but we could still see the distant shapes of Torridon mountains:
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One more look back - I was aware that we would be returning the same way, but so far the ridge was easy:
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The first more difficult fragment was yet to come. At the moment, I enjoyed the narrow ridge between Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe and Sgurr nan Spainteach:
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The first Munro Sister, when approached from the east, makes a grim impression. Big, steep, bulky and monstrous...
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The other two girls, in the background at the moment, look a bit less impressive but from the closer perspective... God knows what they are hiding!
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A little pano:
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On the way to Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, we passed some very scary, vertical drops:
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At some point, I stopped and looked down - to the first scrambling of the day!
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Luckily, it's only a few metres down the steep rocky outcrop. Hands are needed, all right, but I had no problems whatsoever and in less than a minute I was down and smiling:
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Looking back at he tricky bit:
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There are more sharp rocks on this route, but the path omits them all:
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The final push to the summit of the first Munro is steep and the path is eroded, but no real scrambling is needed here, maybe a few hops over bigger boulders. I was on the summit quicker than expected:
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Filming the steep slopes - to scare my poor dad again?... :shock: :shock:
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The summit cairn of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe - my Munro no. 75!
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A happy husband:
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It was time for lunch now, and we spent some time on the summit, eating, drinking and sinking in the views. I felt I still had enough stamina to push to the next two mountains - a pleasant surprise!
Kevin was still taking pictures, close-ups to different mountains and ridges - including the most notorious of them all, the Cuillin:
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Ladhar Bheinn, another monster to defeat:
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The Saddle and Forcan Ridge:
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Loch Duich and Bealach na Craoibhe:
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The descent route from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe is much less steep than the ascent, some boulders to negotiate but again, no proper scrambling involved:
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The ascent path to Sgurr na Carnach - it may look vertical but the path is easy enough:
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Looking back from the bealach to the western slope of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe:
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One more portrait of the Saddle:
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Very distant Ben Nevis - with all the haze in the air I was actually surprised we could see it at all:
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Two buckets of sweat later I was standing by the summit cairn - wanted to meow but there were other walkers around so I didn't. I could have scared them :lol: :lol: I posed with my arms wide open instead:
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It was time for another break. We had to gather strength before tackling the third Sister. For a time being, we enjoyed the views in all directions. And there was another monster to conquer, just past the bealach...
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Back to Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe:
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Another version of "me on the rock" photo, with Cuillin ridge and Sgurr Mhic Bharraigh behind me:
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The Brothers (Saileag mainly :lol: :lol: ) and Ciste Dhubh (to the left) with the long ridge of A'Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire behind:
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Having rested on the top of Sgurr na Carnach, we carried on to Bealach na Carnach. This part involves some scrambling, very easy though. Having reached the col I gazed back towards the cliffs, they actually make a bad impression but there's nothing too technical about this bit...
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Are you sure you want to do it, Panther?...
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I took a deep breath and charged up the steep slope. I couldn't imagine turning back and giving up just before the last hurdle! No way!
Half-way up, I took a glimpse back:
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OK, no more photies of Forcan Ridge, or it will turn into another menace!
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We overtook a few other walkers heading towards the third Sister - Sgurr Fhuaran. I was the first one to reach the summit. And this time, I was alone, so I couldn't resist uttering a squeaky meow! Yeeeeessss!!! The Sisters conquered!!!!
I dropped my rucksack by the cairn and spent a few minutes wandering around the summit, overwhelmed by the views. Kevin arrived five minutes after me and took a plunge towards my rucksack - it turned out he drank all his water and I still had a couple of spare bottles hidden :lol:
Soon, other walkers started to show up and after another 10 minutes the summit was more busy than Inverness high street :lol: :lol: People chatted, took photos, played in snow patches, what a happy moment!
I was infected by the atmosphere:
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Because we planned to return the way we came, this was the final summit for us, though the continuation of the classic traverse to the fourth sister, Sgurr nan Saighead, was tempting:
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More scary cliffs:
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Distant Torridon:
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More scrambling? No, it's just me, playing with the rocks :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Beinn Fhada and Affric hills behind:
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Ben Nevis:
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It took us about 5.5 hours to traverse the 3 Munros (including breaks and there were plenty of them :lol: ) but I never planned to beat the world record on the Sisters. We still had plenty of daylight left but the return would involve more climbing... We wasted no more time and rushed back along the ridge. After a quick descent from Sgurr Fhuaran, we had lots of fun on the easy scrambles up the path to Sgurr na Carnach. Past this summit and on the way back to Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, we discovered we only had one bottle of water left (and the air was still scorching hot, thankfully there was also a nice breeze) so we slowed down.
Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe from the west:
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A short break to gather strength and sink in more views...
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...and there is enough to admire here, in Kintail:
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Descending from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe:
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Below the eastern face of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, the last patches of snow:
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Heading back towards the tricky place:
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Again, I had absolutely no problems with scrambling up the cliff. I'm so glad my confidence has grown. I'll need it all next month when we try the Cuillin!
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Like in a movie played backwards, we walked through all the familiar landscape:
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I might have been tired but still happy enough to keep the big grin:
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Down there, our car is waiting... And there's a bottle of lemonade in the boot!!!
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The final descent down Bealach na Lapain almost killed my knees, but it was a small price to pay for the gorgeous day on the hills. No mercy from the Sisters...
The car park from above:
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Once back on the car park, we run for the boot! Kevin grabbed the bottle first and... it turned out, it was so hot that our drink has almost boiled! Have you ever tried hot lemonade? It's a weird experience :shock: We were so thirsty that we drank it all, anyway :lol:
Definitely, one of the best trips in my Scottish career!!! A big, big meow!!!
I was afraid we would be too stiff and tired the next day to go anywhere, but we woke up on Sunday morning fresh and ready for adventures again. The day looked just as good so we quickly picked up a hill and went for it! Which hill? Well, it will be revealed soon :wink:
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BlackPanther
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby jonny616 » Mon May 28, 2012 3:50 pm

Great photos. I love kintail.

The sister's show no mercy in my opinion although as an old goth they still appeal. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Well done 8)
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby Lenore » Mon May 28, 2012 5:35 pm

Great report BlackPanther and what a day for it! Hope I get good views as well when I do these in July. What was the reason you chose to retrace your steps back along the ridge instead of decending towards Morvich?
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby BlackPanther » Mon May 28, 2012 6:20 pm

Thanks, folks :D
Just to explain, we returned along the ridge as it seemed a more scenic walk. The alternative would be to descend at the opposite end of the ridge and then walk 8km (5 miles) along the busy road. We walked along this road once before (when returning from a different trip in Glen Shiel) and I absolutely hated the experience, many drivers on A87 speed well over the limit. Every time a car passed us, my stomach was turning... And the road is narrow, not much space for pedestrians... Bigger groups of walkers use two cars, parking one at each end of the ridge, but as we were doing it alone (and we only have one car :lol: ) it was not an option. I know that returning along the ridge adds about 350m of ascent to the route, but as I said in my report, I'd rather do a bit more climbing than risk getting killed by a speeding car.
Of course it's up to an individual hillwalker, I'm not saying that our route is the only good one, just the one we fancied. Cheers :D :D
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby soulminer » Mon May 28, 2012 6:25 pm

Definately a walk of distinction, a little avant-garde in approach-but I would have hated the tarmac walk back as well. I would have hitched it :lol:
Great hills to wander though.
Broke three ribs on these on a blustery and wet day, so they are etched in my memory :) Still had to camp in Morvich :lol:
Cheers.
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby Alastair S » Mon May 28, 2012 8:32 pm

Another cracker there BP :thumbup: You really clocking them up.

Good idea on the route if you don't have two cars. While 12.5 km doesn't seem too bad 1698m of ascent in that heat is no joke.
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby mrssanta » Mon May 28, 2012 9:51 pm

brilliant report as always, I'm looking forward to doing these one day
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby xslawekx » Mon May 28, 2012 10:43 pm

BlackPanther wrote:Thanks, folks :D
Just to explain, we returned along the ridge as it seemed a more scenic walk. The alternative would be to descend at the opposite end of the ridge and then walk 8km (5 miles) along the busy road. We walked along this road once before (when returning from a different trip in Glen Shiel) and I absolutely hated the experience, many drivers on A87 speed well over the limit. Every time a car passed us, my stomach was turning... And the road is narrow, not much space for pedestrians... Bigger groups of walkers use two cars, parking one at each end of the ridge, but as we were doing it alone (and we only have one car :lol: ) it was not an option. I know that returning along the ridge adds about 350m of ascent to the route, but as I said in my report, I'd rather do a bit more climbing than risk getting killed by a speeding car.
Of course it's up to an individual hillwalker, I'm not saying that our route is the only good one, just the one we fancied. Cheers :D :D

Another, more pleasant, option is to walk in up Glen Lichd from NTS centre, Morvich, then up Bealach an Lapain or Sgurr nan Spainteach and that way you neither retrace your steps nor walk along the road. Well done you two. I am still to get up there.
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby Bod » Mon May 28, 2012 11:00 pm

A lovely day out BP, one of my favourites to date, great effort too doubling back over the ridge :D :D :D
What a day for it though. You be getting in shape now for Skye in June :D (we're heading back too in July :D )
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby ChrisW » Tue May 29, 2012 3:05 am

This is fantastic BP, you continue to provide such beautiful photos and reports of your outings, I love your enthusiasm for, and love of the hills :clap: :D
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby BlackPanther » Tue May 29, 2012 4:38 pm

Many thanks again for all your kind comments! This was one of the walks on my "big challenges" list. Liathach is next, if weather allows.
I'm a natural optimist and I have buckets of enthusiasm - and getting out and about simply makes me happy, so why not express it in my TRs? :lol: :lol: :lol: I love meowing on the hills! :D
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Re: Sisters of NO mercy!

Postby Lenore » Tue May 29, 2012 9:19 pm

xslawekx wrote:
BlackPanther wrote:Thanks, folks :D
Just to explain, we returned along the ridge as it seemed a more scenic walk. The alternative would be to descend at the opposite end of the ridge and then walk 8km (5 miles) along the busy road. We walked along this road once before (when returning from a different trip in Glen Shiel) and I absolutely hated the experience, many drivers on A87 speed well over the limit. Every time a car passed us, my stomach was turning... And the road is narrow, not much space for pedestrians... Bigger groups of walkers use two cars, parking one at each end of the ridge, but as we were doing it alone (and we only have one car :lol: ) it was not an option. I know that returning along the ridge adds about 350m of ascent to the route, but as I said in my report, I'd rather do a bit more climbing than risk getting killed by a speeding car.
Of course it's up to an individual hillwalker, I'm not saying that our route is the only good one, just the one we fancied. Cheers :D :D

Another, more pleasant, option is to walk in up Glen Lichd from NTS centre, Morvich, then up Bealach an Lapain or Sgurr nan Spainteach and that way you neither retrace your steps nor walk along the road. Well done you two. I am still to get up there.


Ooooh Yes, I remember Glen lichd to be quite pretty and the path was fine all the way through next door fionn glen, which I think is much further east than you would need. However, don't know how doable the way up to the bealach is from there? It doesn't sound like a more convenient way to me, but definitely a pretty one! :D
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